Managers have it hard. This statement is not a ground breaking one. In recent times coaches have had to become more adept at addressing their player’s needs and dealing with different personalities. It’s one thing to stop your player talking to ESPN or Sky Sports when they feel annoyed, but with the creation of Twitter a new demon is born.
First it was Ryan Babel tweeting a picture of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United kit. Now Jack Wilshere has decided to put the twit in Twitter with a dig at Birmingham captain Barry Ferguson. In the wake of Obafemi Martins’s last minute winner, the former Rangers man rubbed the head of Frenchman Laurent Kosicelny as he ran past.
Yes it was childish and not exactly the epitome of good sportsmanship but Wilshere taking to Twitter claiming his team-mate was slapped hardly saw him mount a high horse of his own. I appreciate he is frustrated, a trophy they were expected to win snatched from their grasp because of poor communication between goalkeeper and centre back. However in these instances, a deep breath is required, a calming walk, a game of Fifa 11, just something to sooth the mind before deciding if it’s a good idea.
The fact that a rapid delete rarely saves the tweeter makes it an even stupider decision. Even if you decide to comment at 3am GMT you can guarantee a football fan, somewhere will be watching your page. Take for example Wilshere’s message in the wake of the crazy 4-4 draw against Newcastle United:
‘Inconsistent refereing needs to stop.its killing the game.if Diaby goes..whats the difference between that and Nolan on our keeper!?? joke.’
The aforementioned quick delete didn’t stop numerous message boards and newspapers picking up the comments and despite claims of a Twitter hack from the player, the England international was lucky to avoid FA punishment.
So how does the modern manager stop this new problem? Often a social network shutdown is the easiest way. After Newcastle Jose Enrique tweeted he would miss the Spurs game hours before kick off, his manager responded none too kindly in his post match interview. The player eventually closed his Twitter account as it ‘caused too many problems’.
It’s not all bad though. Many of the world’s top players have good, fun Twitter pages that never blur the lines of asset and problem. After all, Twitter is a great way for fans and even journalists to connect with players. Posting pictures, re-tweets and even Twitter competitions for signed shirts and boots help form a bond when often players seem unapproachable to the fans that fund their profession.
If Wilshere feels bad about his recent tweets he must remember he is not alone. Take Gregory Van Der Wiel of Ajax. In 2009 he ruled himself out of a game for Holland because of concussion. Around the same time he posted a photo entitled ‘Me with Lil Wayne last night’. Not the smartest move for which he was quickly reprimanded with Bert Van Marwijjk saying footballers on social media should be banned.
Closer to home, Aston Villa’s Darren Bent used his page to vent his frustrations at a hold up in his move from Tottenham to Sunderland, curse words were even used. He apologized to his then employers and even closed his Twitter page at one point during his time with Sunderland to concentrate on his football.
Even then just when you think it’s safe because you’ve shut down your star players Twitter/Facebook don’t rule out a faux pas from his partner or family. Take Mrs David Bentley and Paul Konchesky’s Mum Carol.
The former took to her page to have a go at her husband’s manager Harry Redknapp with the ever so eloquent ‘Sort it our Harry for f***’s sake’. The now standard prompt delete and half hearted apology may have got Bentley his move north to Birmingham, but you imagine he was left rather red faced at training.
Mother Konchesky by contrast used Facebook to have a go at Liverpool fans degrading her son and his cockney roots. I appreciate the sentiment as no Mother likes to see their child so routinely and sometimes unnecessarily insulted. However this is one of the less desirable parts of being a footballer, fans have opinions and with the internet they have the means to broadcast these views.
So the lesson here? Tweet responsibly; ask yourself if your message is controversial or defamatory and would your manager appreciate it. Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Savage are the golden children here. Fun, joke exchanging players who display personality but maintain professionalism throughout.